At least one songwriter in Nashville couldn't pass up the tale of an escaped convict accused of stealing a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer and a country star's tour bus because he wanted to see his critically ill mother.
Bluegrass picker Tim O'Brien wrote the lyrics to "The Ballad of Christopher Daniel Gay" about the convict's journey and set them to the melody of folk singer Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd."
O'Brien first read about Gay last week in a Colorado newspaper.
"I just knew there was a song in there," he said. "Chris Gay's mother even rhymed for a reporter saying, 'What he done was wrong, but he knows his mama don't have long.'"
'Like this in the old days'
Back in Nashville, O'Brien recruited dobro ace Jerry Douglas and bassist Wayne Moss. They knocked out the track Monday after a few takes and posted it as a free download on O'Brien's Web site.
"It was like this in the old days ... you know, write it Sunday, record it Monday and get it on the radio on Tuesday," O'Brien said.
The third verse goes, "Stole a pickup in Carolina, then a Wal-Mart truck with 18 wheels. He drove toward his dyin' mama in the Cheatham County hills.
"And it's down those lanes and back roads the police made their chase. And he almost made her trailer, he almost saw her face."
Gay, 33, escaped from a prisoner transport van Jan. 21 near Hardeeville, S.C., apparently to visit his terminally ill mother in Tennessee.
He is suspected of stealing a pickup truck in South Carolina, and then the cab of a tractor-trailer in Georgia. He allegedly drove to Manchester, about 60 miles southeast of Nashville, where he hooked the cab to a Wal-Mart trailer filled with $300,000 in merchandise and took off again.
Police say he abandoned the rig within 50 yards of his mother's home northeast of Nashville and fled to the woods as authorities closed in. He never saw his mother.
Gay was later spotted driving country singer Crystal Gayle's tour bus Thursday in Florida. He was arrested the next night near Daytona Beach, Fla., where he remains in custody.
He aroused suspicion when he went to USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla., and said he was there to pick up NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.